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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Affordable Housing Redo Offers Westport ‘Breathing Room’

By James Lomuscio

The state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g has long been the bane of local municipalities because it allows developers to override zoning regulations if a municipality does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable.

WestportNow.com Image
Developer Philip Craft of Easton shows off a redesign of his proposed four-story affordable housing complex at 1177 Post Road East, which he presented to the Representative Town Meeting last October. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Westport is one of those towns, and 8-30g has been on the mouths and minds of local officials for years. The fear is that an unscrupulous developer could use it to ride roughshod over zoning regulations by providing just a small percentage of affordable units.

In the meantime, towns have been seeking four-year moratoriums to reach the state mandated housing stock goal by way of points based on affordable housing units in place.

On Monday, concerns over 8-30g lessened, with 138 of the state’s 169 municipalities not at the 10 percent goal catching a break.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

House Approves Union Concessions Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The House of Representatives today narrowly approved the state employees’ concessions deal that is expected to save as much as $1.57 billion this fiscal year and next combined.

The Democrat-controlled House voted 78-72 almost entirely along party lines to endorse the deal.

The concessions package, which workers ratified earlier this month, tentatively is scheduled to go before the Senate on July 31.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republican leaders objected to today’s vote. They argued that nonpartisan analysts — who hadn’t received all documentation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration until last Friday — were unable to conduct a full review.

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07/24/17 09:10 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Legislature Overrides Malloy 8-30G Housing Veto

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

The General Assembly today dealt a blow to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s housing agenda after legislators voted narrowly to override his veto of a bill that loosens the state’s affordable housing standards known as 8-30g.

Both the House and Senate mustered the two-thirds majorities necessary to override. The margin in the Senate, 24-12, could not have been narrower.

The House voted by a 101-47 margin with 101 votes needed to override. Three members –- two Democrats and one Republican –- were absent and did not vote.

It marks just the fourth time the legislature has overridden one of the governor’s vetoes. The first three came last year.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

GOP Leader Decries House Push for a Monday Vote on Union Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

While legislative voting on the proposed union concessions deal could begin Monday, the top Republican in the Senate said the House Democratic leadership was irresponsibly rushing action on a crucial agreement.

Legislators must be at the Capitol on Monday for a constitutionally mandated, one-day session to consider overriding measures vetoed this year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“We will finalize decisions on any potential veto override votes at our caucus meeting Monday, as well as discuss the labor concession agreement, which we expect to vote on later that day,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, wrote in a statement.

But while Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, also scheduled a vote, he’s waiting until July 31 to accommodate lawmakers awaiting more information on the deal.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Honoring Ted Diamond at 100

WestportNow.com Image
Westport Democrats tonight honored former selectman Ted Diamond on the occasion of his 100th birthday on July 3. Lee Arthurs, secretary of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) served up a cake and candles at the end of the DTC meetng in the Westport Town Hall auditorium. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

07/18/17 10:48 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Democrats Nominate Candidates

WestportNow.com Image
The Westport Democratic Town Committee tonight officially endorsed its candidates for the November municipal election. Pictured (l-r, top row) Victoria Gouletas, candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals; Brian Stern, candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance; Bernard Deverin, canddiate for re-election to the Zoning Board of Appeals; Danielle Dobin, candidate for re-election to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission;  Jill Saluck, candidate for the P&Z Commission; David Keisman, candidate for re-election to the Board of Assessment Appeals; (front row) Elaine Whitney and Candice Savin, candidates for re-election to the Board of Education; Mellissa Kane, candidate for first selectman; Rob Simmelkjaer, candidate for second selectman; Elaine Arnow, candidate for re-election ot the Board of Assessment Appeals. Not pictured: Lee Caney, candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance, and Michael Cammeyer, candidate for re-election to the P&Z.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

07/18/17 10:33 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Melissa Kane: ‘We Need To Be Able To Do Better’

WestportNow.com Image
In accepting the Democratic nomination for first selectman tonight, Melissa Kane told a meeting of the Democratic Town Committee that she has always loved how expressive Westporters are in promoting causes such as protecting open space and working to stop hate. She added, however: “We need to be able to do a better job of making Westport work for all Westporters. And we need to attract future generations to Westport because of what we stand for and because of who we are.” See text of Kane’s speech HERE. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

07/18/17 10:30 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Republicans Nominate Candidates

WestportNow.com Image
The Westport Republican Town Committe tonight officially endorsed candidates for municipal office. Pictured (l-r) Board of Finance candidates Andrea Moore and Vik Muktavaram; First Selectman Jim Marpe, who is running for re-election; Second Selectman candidate Jen Tooker; Board of Education members Jeannie Smith and Karen Kleine, who are running for re-election; and Tom Hood, candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals. Not pictured is Jon Olefson, candidate for the Planning and Zoning Commission. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

07/18/17 10:28 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Marpe & Tooker: Their Message is ‘Continued Leadership, Experience and Results’

WestportNow.com Image
First Selectman Jim Marpe and running mate Jen Tooker are all smiles tonight after their formal nomination by the Republican Town Committee. A RTC statement said their message is one of “continued leadership, experience, and results” and “it is resonating with voters because it is truly what distinguishes our team.”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

07/18/17 10:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

State Employees Ratify Concessions by Wide Margin

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Unionized state employees have overwhelmingly approved a $1.57 billion package of concessions over two years, providing major savings to help close the state budget gap.

WestportNow.com Image
Union representatives at a news conference announcing ratification of a concessions agreement with the state. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for CtMirror.org

The focus now shifts to a closely divided General Assembly, where Republicans say they will attempt to reject the agreement.

The State Employees Bargain Agent Coalition announced that more than 80 percent of the votes cast were in favor of accepting concessions that will freeze wages and increase contributions for health and pensions.

Bargaining units representing state police troopers and assistant attorneys general did not vote on the wage concessions.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

P&Z Commissioner Alan Hodge Decides to Serve Out Term

UPDATE Westport Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commissioner Alan Hodge has retracted his intent to resign and the Democrat will serve out his term until November, Chair Cathy Walsh announced today.

WestportNow.com Image
Alan Hodge: changed his mind about resigning. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

It was announced at Thursday’s meeting that Hodge had submitted his resignation, but Walsh, a Republican, said at the time she had not yet accepted it. (See WestportNow July 13, 2017)

Republican member Chip Stephens told the meeting Hodge was “a victim of political nastiness.” Hodge was not endorsed for a new term by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) in a list released Sunday. (See WestportNow July 16, 2017)

DTC Nominating Committee Chair Andy Nevas said Hodge did not respond to an email sent to incumbents asking if they wished to seek re-election nor to a general email seeking nominees. “Mr. Hodge never responded to any of these emails,” he said.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Democrats Announce Endorsed Candidates

The Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) tonight announced its endorsed candidates for the November municipal election. Formal nominations will be made Tuesday.

WestportNow.com Image

As previously announced, Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer make up the top of the ticket for first selectman and second selectman.

Two incumbents were each endorsed for the Board of Finance and Board of Education as well as two on the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

But incumbent P&Z Commissioner Alan Hodge was dropped in favor of Jill Saluck, an employment litigation attorney.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

‘Political Nastiness’ Cited as P&Z’s Alan Hodge Submits Resignation

UPDATE Alan Hodge, a Westport Planning and Zoning Commissioner, has submitted his resignation, members were told tonight.

WestportNow.com Image
Alan Hodge: resignation submitted but not yet accepted. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Elected in 2013 on the Democratic ticket, Hodge supported Republican Chip Stephens as the P&Z chair soon afterward and often voted with Republicans. The chair of the Democratic Town Committee sharply criticized Hodge’s support of Stephens.

“I think Alan was a victim of political nastiness, and for a guy who worked so hard for us and was a neutral person, I’m very sorry it ended this way,” said Stephens at the end of tonight’s meeting in disclosing Hodge’s resignation.

He added: “Hopefully none of us will have to go through what he has gone through.”

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07/13/17 10:55 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Malloy Recognizes his Budget Proposal is $121M Out of Balance

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said repeatedly that all of the budgets legislative caucuses have proposed are so flawed he would veto them.

But the Malloy administration conceded this week that there are some holes in the governor’s budget as well — worth more than $120 million.

The $40.6 billion, two-year budget Malloy unveiled on May 15 effectively assumes $46.7 million in labor savings in the first year and $74.5 million in the second that the administration now acknowledges it can’t achieve — at least as originally planned.

Why? Because those cost-saving measures — which largely involve reducing staff and closing and consolidating facilities — would require layoffs that would be prohibited for four years under the concessions deal pending before state employee unions.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Westport Trump Voter Tells Yahoo: ‘He’s a Nutcase’

A Westport man who voted for Donald Trump was one of those cited by Yahoo Finance today as regretting it.

WestportNow.com Image
Jim McDonald: would back impeachment effort. Finance.Yahoo.com photo

Jim McDonald, 62, a former Wall Street trader, told Yahoo that he voted for Trump because he agreed with Trump’s calls for better trade deals, lower taxes, deregulating banks and bringing down drug prices.

But he has seen little action on those issues, however, and is appalled Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

“His environmental policies might harm me or my two offspring, who are in their 20s,” he said. “The guy’s a nutcase and nothing can get done because he’s too busy talking about Joe Scarborough or insulting the prime minister of Germany.

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07/12/17 09:14 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Murphy Raises $2M in Last Quarter

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said today he raised $2 million for his 2018 re-election campaign in the last quarter, bringing his total cash on hand to $5.1 million.

Murphy said the amount he has raised since the beginning of the year is about half what he raised in the entirety of his first campaign in 2012. He raised about $3 million in the first quarter of 2017.

“I’ve never seen anything like the passion on the ground in Connecticut right now,” Murphy said. “Everywhere I go in the state, people tell me they are deeply worried about the direction Congress is taking the country.”

While the campaign’s quarterly filing is not yet available on the Federal Election Commission website, Murphy said 93 percent of the nearly 90,000 contributions he has received this year have been for $100 or less.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Westporter Obsitnik Raises $201,000 to Explore Statewide Run

Westport Republican Steve Obsitnik announced today that his exploratory campaign for a statewide office run has raised $201,567 from more than 1,700 donors.

WestportNow.com Image
Steve Obsitnik: “On road to ruin.” Contributed photo

A $250,000 threshold is needed to get public funding.

“We had a great second quarter,” said Obsitnik. “I think it’s because people are tired of the same career politicians who have run our state into the ground and want to see a new approach.”

Obsitnik who was unopposed when he won the Republican nomination in 2012 for the U.S. House of Representatives, was defeated by Democrat Jim Himes who was running for reelection that year. Himes has held the seat since 2009.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Malloy Vetoes 8-30G Reform Bill; Override Possible

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today he has vetoed legislation that would have loosened the state’s affordable housing standards. It is Malloy’s first veto of the session.

The bill would have modified the state’s 8-30g law, which pushes – but does not require – all municipalities to have 10 percent of their housing stock deemed affordable.

Until that threshold is reached, developers building affordable units are allowed to bypass local zoning laws, which has led to resistance and backlash from some municipalities, many of them suburban.

This legislation would have made it easier for cities and towns to reach the threshold necessary to halt unrestricted development by qualifying for multi-year moratoriums. It received wide bipartisan support in the General Assembly, passing the House by a vote of 116-33 and the Senate 30-6.

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Healthcare, Environment, Trump Dominate Himes’ Town Hall

By James Lomuscio

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) told a crowd of more than 600 persons in Westport’s Bedford Middle School auditorium tonight that he had to follow a nonpartisan rubric.

WestportNow.com Image
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes addresses a town hall-style meeting tonight at Westport’s Bedford Middle School. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

It wasn’t easy as the mostly Democratic and cheering supporters at Himes’ first Westport town hall style meeting in five years took aim at President Trump.

Himes came to talk about the healthcare bill before the Senate, one he said was more focused on repealing than repairing the Affordable Care Act, which he had supported under President Obama.

He also spoke about tax reform, simplifying the tax code, something the country has not seen since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan held a 65 percent approval rating.

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Gallery: U.S. Rep. Jim Himes Holds Westport Town Hall


Scenes from a town hall meeting tonight at Westport’s Bedford Middle School with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. WestportNow.com photos

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Himes: ‘Our President Uses Fear and Division’

WestportNow.com Image
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) listens to a questioner tonight as he hosted his first town hall meeting in Westport in five years. Many of the questions at the Bedford Middle School event were about Republican efforts to dismantle the American Healthcare Act. In response to a woman who said “it feels like a police state is being set up,” Himes replied: “Fear and division are very powerful propaganda tools ... We are in a moment — I’m not afraid to say so, even though it may sound partisan — where our president uses fear and division.” He added: “Each and every one of us needs to stand up and say, ‘Oh no you won’t.’” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

07/06/17 08:08 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Generally Friendly Audience for Jim Himes Town Hall

WestportNow.com Image
Many in the Westport Bedford Middle School audience tonight repeatedly praised U.S. Rep. Jim Himes for his actions in representing the 4th Congressional District. When a questioner asked about replacing Democratic Party leadership to more vigorously oppose the Trump administration, Himes replied, “I wish you hadn’t asked that question.” He added that he really coiuldn’t talk party issues because this was a federally-funded event but did say: “At some point we will need a succession plan.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Himes Sets Town Hall in Westport on Thursday

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) will host a town hall event on Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bedford Middle School, 88 North Ave., his office announced.

WestportNow.com Image
U..S. Rep. Jim Himes: first Westport town hall-type meeting in five years. Contributed photo

The venue was chosen because it is one of the largest in town with a capacity of about 1,000 persons.

While Himes has appeared at numerous Westport events since he first won victory in 2009, this would be only his second large-scale town hall-type meeting in Westport since July 1, 2012. (See WestportNow July 1, 2012) That event at the Westport Library attracted an overflow crowd.

This one is likely to do the same, especially with Himes being a member of the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election and possible ties to the Trump administration.

07/01/17 07:39 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, June 30, 2017

Malloy Prepares CT for Life Without a New State Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy struck a conciliatory tone today, urging legislative leaders to adopt a new budget even as he signed an executive order to begin managing state finances without one.

WestportNow.com Image
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs the executive order under which he will run state government in the absence of an approved budget. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Keith M. Phaneuf for CTMirror.org.

Yet while he urged legislators to come together he also acknowledged he hasn’t shifted his own fiscal stand much since he proposed his first two-year budget to the General Assembly almost five months ago.

Malloy, who met with reporters in his Capitol office one day before the new fiscal year began, also repeated his warning that social services, aid to towns and most other programs would suffer significantly without a new budget.

“This is a regrettable path and one that I worked very hard to avoid,” Malloy said, referring to the three-month provisional budget he asked legislators to adopt this week.

This still would have imposed cuts on all areas, but would have approved modest tax hikes to limit those reductions, the administration said.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Frustrated Malloy on Budget Deadlock: ‘This is a Failure of the Legislature’

By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today excoriated the General Assembly for failing to vote on even a provisional budget, saving his greatest scorn for the House leadership and any rank-and-file member who was absent from Connecticut as the fiscal year neared its end on Friday.

WestportNow.com Image
A frustrated Gov. Dannel P. Malloy discusses the status of the state budget and budget negotiations today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for CtMirror.org

Malloy, a Democrat not seeking re-election in 2018, thanked the Senate leaders of both parties for being ready to vote. He pressed reporters to seek a list of the missing in the House, suggesting they failed their state and the responsibilities of their office.

“This is a failure of the legislature to pass a budget,” Malloy said.

The Senate was ready today to vote on a “mini-budget” that would provide a spending plan for the first three months of the fiscal year and buy time for a closely divided legislature to find a compromise on how to resolve a $2.3 billion shortfall in the coming year and $2.8 billion the next. The House was not.

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Steinberg Among Moderate Democrats With Doubts on Concessions

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Several moderate Democrats in the General Assembly, including Westport’s Jonathan Steinberg, have told their leadership they agree with Republicans that labor concessions negotiated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are insufficient, a potential complication in the intertwined efforts to pass a budget and win ratification by state employees.

Sources say a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate back the tentative deal, but strong Republican opposition in the closely divided legislature means the budget debate could be prolonged by even a small number of Democrats questioning whether the concessions are a sufficient step toward addressing Connecticut’s massive retirement benefits debt.

The concerns about the concessions deal, whose savings are a pivotal piece of every budget proposal under consideration, were confirmed in a series of interviews with CT Mirror.

Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the Malloy administration, said lawmakers who undermine the concessions deal will bear a heavy responsibility: “Any legislator, who believes that this agreement doesn’t achieve enough savings, should be prepared to lay out their ideas for getting to balance. Simply stating ‘it’s not enough’ is not going to cut it at this stage.”

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Melissa Kane Taps Simmelkjaer as Second Selectman Running Mate

Melissa Kane, Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) chair who plans to run for first selectman, announced today that she has chosen Rob Simmelkjaer, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), as her running mate.

WestportNow.com Image
Melissa Kane with running mate Rob Simmelkjaer. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

“I am very excited to team up with Rob to bring a strategic vision and fresh perspective to Town Hall. Rob’s tremendous energy, deep intellect and impressive commitment to Westport will have an immediate and positive impact on the town we both love,” said Kane

Kane, who serves on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), said that she has worked closely with Simmelkjaer on the DTC, as well as community initiatives.

“Together I know we will hit the ground running to ensure the integrity of Westport’s unique character and to build its economic vitality well into the future,” she said.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rea: Work Commitments Preclude Running for First Selectman

Michael Rea, vice chairman of the Westport Board of Finance, said today that work commitments were the reason that he has suspended his 2017 exploratory committee to run as the Republican candidate for first selectman.

WestportNow.com Image
Mike Rea: can’t make time commitment. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“I just didn’t have the time to commit to this effort as was required at this point,” said Rea, vice president of corporate services and global real estate for General Re.

Rea who had filed with the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) in early March, said that he was “overwhelmed with the support and encouragement from Westporters across the political spectrum,” and that he would continue to serve out his term of office on the Board of Finance.

“I have a passion for Westport and for service in town government, and I expect to continue to do so,” said Rea, a lifelong town resident with more than 35 years of town volunteer service.

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Board of Selectmen Congratulates Flug on New Job

WestportNow.com Image
The Westport Board of Selectmen today congratulated Eileen Lavigne Flug (2nd l) on announcement of her pending appointment to be assistant town attorney. Flug is currently moderator of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and will take over from Gail Kelly in July. Pictured with her are (l-r) Selectman Avi Kaner, First Selectman Jim Marpe, and Selectman Helen Garten.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

06/28/17 09:38 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RTM’s Flug to Take Over as Assistant Town Attorney

Eileen Lavigne Flug, moderator of Westport Representative’s Town Meeting (RTM), for almost four years, will be appointed assistant town attorney in August, replacing Gail Kelly who is leaving that post at the end of July, First Selectman Jim Marpe and Town Attorney Ira Bloom announced today.

WestportNow.com Image
Eileen Flug:: “a great honor.”Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Flug’s appointment comes as she joins the firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C. as senior counsel. Most recently she has been with Cohen & Wolf, P.C.

“I am very pleased to appoint Eileen Lavigne Flug as the new assistant town attorney beginning in August,” said Marpe. “Eileen is widely respected in town, has an excellent understanding of town government, and has a distinguished legal background.

“We have had the opportunity to work together closely during the past three-and-a-half years in our respective town leadership roles, so I know that she will add tremendous value to the town through her new responsibilities,” he added.

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